The lasting power of peace of mind

Post by Mearns & Company in News

Many people choose to write a Power of Attorney (PoA) alongside a will, but they are not just for later life.

While a will sets out how your estate should be divided after your death, a PoA concerns who should look after your welfare and/or finances if you are no longer able to make decisions yourself.

They are not just relevant, however, for the elderly or those in failing health. PoAs can be set up years in advance before they are used – accidents and ill health can happen at any time. Nor do you need substantial assets; at the simplest level PoAs can, for example, allow your designated attorney to access your bank account and ensure that bills get paid.

The Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland) has made a series of short “myth-busting” videos about PoAs that are well worth a watch.

https://www.publicguardian-scotland.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/power-of-attorney/poa-myth-videos

In Scotland, there are three types of PoA:

• A Continuing PoA, which deals with financial matters;
• A Welfare PoA, which concerns health and personal care decisions; and
• A Combined PoA, which covers both.

To be valid, a PoA certificate needs to be signed by a solicitor (registered to practice in Scotland), a member of the Faculty of Advocates or a medical doctor, and then registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland).

PoAs do not automatically give attorneys immediate access to your finances. You must give express permission before an attorney can use these powers or be deemed mentally incapable of looking after your own affairs.

You can appoint one or more attorneys who can be a spouse, relative or close friend. It’s important to select someone you trust to put your interests first. You can also appoint an organisation, such as a local solicitors’ firm, but only to look after financial matters.

You may never need your PoA, but should your health fail at any point, it can provide peace of mind that a trusted friend or relative would look after your affairs.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, trusts and some forms of estate planning.

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